In addition, two students were awarded St. Mark's College awards. Margaret Hitchcock (Master of Arts in Theological Studies) received the Thesis Award in recognition of her academic research and scholarship. Hilmar Pabel (Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies) received the Chancellor's Award, which recognizes the student with the highest grade point average within the graduating class.
In his Convocation Student Address, Hilmar reflected on the idea of "pressing on"—not just pressing on to meet the pressures of this fast-paced world, but also pressing on to know the Lord. He asked graduates:
"How do you press on to know the Lord? Is the knowledge of God—and let’s use its formal name, theology—your priority? How can we profess to love God if we do not know God? Can we love God more by knowing God less? And how does pressing on to know God give you hope?"
As the Class of 2022 "press[es] on with the knowledge of God," integrating what they've learned in the classroom into their ministry, professions, and relationships with others, we look forward to seeing what this talented group of graduates accomplishes next.
Congratulations to the Class of 2022!
St. Mark's College, Class of 2022
The prophet Hosea urged: “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord” (Hos. 6:3). He was not speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Prophetic Academy. His message some 2,700 years ago was aimed at the priests, royalty, and people of the kingdom of Israel, whose failing was ignorance. “They do not know the Lord,” Hosea complained (Hos. 5:4).
Since what was written long ago “was written for our instruction” so that to us the Scriptures might impart hope (Rom. 15:4), I bend Hosea’s urging to our happy occasion today. But before I turn to my fellow graduates, I ask all of you here today at this College: How do you press on to know the Lord? Is the knowledge of God—and let’s use its formal name, theology—your priority? How can we profess to love God if we do not know God? Can we love God more by knowing God less? And how does pressing on to know God give you hope?
We who graduate today can easily remember the pressures of pressing on to know God in our various programs, in courses on Catholic educational leadership, ethics, Scripture, canon law, and theology. We did not like those pressures. But we looked forward in hope to this day. And yet we know the pressing on continues; it is not over. The pressures trained us. They moulded our character and strengthened our resolve to make knowing God our ongoing contribution to the synod of learners, whom we call the People of God, the Church. We walk together with and in gratitude for our family and friends, who have supported us; with and in gratitude for all the staff at St. Mark’s, who have worked hard for us, usually sight unseen; with and in gratitude for our teachers, who made us press on; and with and in gratitude for our Principal and President, Dr. Michael Higgins, the members of the College’s Board of Governors, and our Chancellor, Archbishop Michael Miller, who all exercise public roles of leadership in Catholic education.
We have taken different paths to this day. I have been asked to say something about my own journey. It began ten years ago and was born of necessity, thanks to the intellectual formation of candidates for the permanent diaconate. How I remember those monthly weekends of compressed learning at Rosemary Heights: an exhausting tour de force from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. I do not wish those weekends back. Yet the grace of those weekends was to whet within me an insatiable appetite to know God so as to love God more among God’s People. And so, with some delay after graduating from St. Mark’s for the first time in 2015, I pressed on to graduate a second time in 2022. Late is never too late in the economy of salvation. The economy of learning changed to Zoom, and my path crossed with that of many wonderful people. What a delight it was that the most populous course we took was on the Ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council taught by Dr. Germain McKenzie! Pope St. John Paul II hailed the Council “as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century” (Novo millenio ineunte, 57). That grace remains on offer in this century, too, especially in the synodal renewal of the Church. Yet how many Catholics are unaware of the Council and its teachings! St. Mark’s is a place for them, for all of us, to press on.
I have heard it said that it is a principle of canon law that it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission. So, I beg pardon to mention now only one of the outstanding courses at St. Mark’s, which enriched six colleagues and me. Dr. Nick Olkovich’s course on Field-Based Learning affords an excellent opportunity to learn about ministry in the Church by doing it. We learned the art of theological reflection as the Holy Spirit empowered us to serve the grace of God’s kingdom in our chosen ministry projects. In these projects, we rekindled the gift of God that is within us (2 Tim. 1:6). They were all God’s dreams for us come true. And I beg pardon again to mention mine. The Second Vatican Council, in truly revolutionary fashion, called for “a mutual knowledge and respect” between Jews and Catholics fostered by “friendly con-versations” (Nostra aetate, 4). Local Jewish leaders helped me make these “friendly conversations” possible for a small group of Catholics and Jews in Vancouver. The Jewish welcome that I received and still receive is the grace to press on to know the Lord, the God of Israel, whom the Church blesses every morning in its liturgical prayer.
It was really God’s insistence, spoken through Hosea, to press on to know the Lord. And it is God who says through the same prophet: “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). The “steadfast love” that translates the Hebrew word chesed is first and foremost the mercy and kindness that God lavishes on us, the mercy and love that we have received in Christ Jesus, his Son and our Lord. Do we wish to receive and give that steadfast love? Then here at St. Mark’s, in the Church, and in God’s world, we must press on with the knowledge of God.